Communicating through music with children and teenagers: an educational potential to be discovered

Communicating through music with children and teenagers: an educational potential to be discovered

Music has a great communicative power. Those who sing lyrics of songs, not only "say something", but also evoke emotions, memories and, reaching the subconscious, lead the mind of the listener to worlds near or far away, shed light on wounds and hidden dreams…

A song can change the perception of reality, inspire decisions and stimulate a person's inner growth. On the contrary, an aggressive and invasive music can lead to a closure, to a "hardening of the heart". It can emanate negative feelings and arouse feelings of contempt.

Therefore, we could say that through music - as through any other form of communication - one can do good or harm. In short, music can elevate or sink us.

Since music is capable of stimulating and transmitting messages with extraordinary power, its educational function is relevant. But how use this tool in the relationship with children or students? Here are some simple suggestions to invite you to make the most of the potential of music in education.

Why sing to children?

Have you ever wondered why, even without knowing how to sing, we often sing nursery rhymes or lullabies in order to calm down, sleep or simply relate to very young children, even new born babies? Why do almost all mothers, aunts, grandmothers (and even unexpectedly grandparents!) suddenly find themselves memorizing texts or melodies and then repeating them to their little ones as if they were rituals? And why do children actually calm down when adults sing to them?

The answer is that all of us, somehow, are born "capable of music": in the musical rhythm, in fact, we find security, because it unconsciously reminds us of our mother's heartbeat, heard continuously in the womb during the gestation period.

There is something ancestral and visceral about the bond each of us has with music. It transmits to us unconsciously: "Life!". It reminds us that we are not alone, that there are many other hearts beating next to ours.

But in addition to awakening a sense of protection and instinctive security, does music bring benefits in the development of children's skills?

The benefits of music in growing up

We have already seen that talking to children or telling stories has many advantages from the point of view of the relationship between child and adult as well as cognitive and linguistic development. Music can also play a key role in children’s growth. Indeed, music:

1. Favours concentration and the development of a good memory.

2. Strengthens creative and imaginative capacities.

3. It helps to have control of one’s emotivism.

4. Increases self-esteem.

5. Through the musicality of the mother's voice, the child can develop listening and communication skills.

6. The movement of the body to the rhythm of music - dance - is a valid tool in the process of growing up, because it helps the child to discover himself and his abilities.

The many positive effects of music, already recognized by psychologists, paediatricians and researchers on the subject, have helped in the creation of several cultural projects around the world (an example in Italy is shown in this article: Singing to children is good: it develops intelligence ).

So, if you had some reserve about showing up in performances that weren't very exciting from an artistic point of view, it's a good thing to know that science is on your side.

Even if you are among those who really cannot sing all the notes correctly, take your time to sing with your children. Select some songs, naturally and spontaneously, so that this becomes a kind of ritual... in addition to the benefits mentioned above, having "your songs" will strengthen the bond with your children.

The role of music in adolescence

Music changes, in every sense, when the child or student with whom we relate is no longer a child, but a teenager. In the difficult period of adolescence, when young people feel the need to “belonging” in order to understand who they are, music becomes an element of cohesion within a group or a way of expressing their own lifestyle .

Music also allows young people to express their ownemotions, feelings or thoughts. Through the choice of songs or melodies, they express desires and frustrations, related to a phase of life in which the personality is still in formation and in which rebellion, the need for affirmation and the desire for change prevail.

Music helps them to concentrate, understand and express everything that happens to them ; it becomes an escape valve, an instrument of self-appropriation and a way of communicating with their peers.

But what about adults? How can they fit into this process of transformation through music? Music offers them opportunities to meet and to face one another: it can help the adult to relate to the adolescent, who often deviates from any dialogue. Here is an example:

Music as a tool for dialogue with adolescents

First, the adults need to know that with the kind of music teenagers listen to, they are telling us something indirectly , even though they often don't talk to us. They're telling us what they're going through at that time of their lives.

Our advice is as follows: become interested in their playlist, listen carefully to the texts they hear and, why not, start a dialogue with them by asking with interest and respect why they like that particular text and what they find interesting or beautiful in a particular melody.

The writer Alessandro D'Avenia, high school teacher and author of bestsellers of international fame such as White as Silence, Red as Song, Things that Nobody Knows, Every story is a love story (which intervened recently, in a seminar dedicated to the education of young people through the classics) in an article for the column "Letti da rifare" ("Beds to be made"), which he wrote for the newspaper Corriere della Sera - one of the main Italian newspapers - invites parents and teachers to use music to penetrate the young people’s armour: “The “bed to be made today” could be in this case to dedicate one night a week to listen to the music of others: the songs could be chosen by the father, the mother, the children and the grandmother. Each one tells and explains, the others listen without judging, asking, so that they know the words of the desire of the other, and perhaps also something about their wounds, weaknesses, memories, dreams or darkness. Continue this session as long as you wish: imagine this high-voltage jam session with Simon & Garfunkel together with Eminem, Battisti, Salmo, Chopin or Sfera.... Make a family list and listen to it. I do it with every new class at school: I ask everyone for their favourite song, complete the playlist (titled according to class: "First A Greatest Hits") and listen carefully in order to explore the hearts of those who are in front of me: a musical "roll call". In this way, music becomes joy, discovery, an encounter between generations, a relationship: in other words, a life. I wish there was more at home and at school..."